Over the past ten years Exeter has been hugely successful, growing research income, building student numbers, moving strongly up the league tables. But one element has remained stubbornly fixed – our income and partnership with business. And when we talk about business we mean all the different kinds of external partners that require special approaches eg museums, local authorities, hospitals, NGOs, government departments. That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of connections – but these are generally not turning into valued partnerships. As a result, we rank 104th in the UK in the proportion of our research income that comes from industry; we had the lowest Impact score in the Russell Group in the last REF; our income from CPD, consultancy and intellectual property is low; and the employability of our students is suffering.
Does this matter? With flat cash for RCUK income, a threatening picture on EU funding, TEF with a strong requirement for employability and a new Government department responsible for UK research that has the words ‘Business’ and ‘Industrial Strategy’ in its title we think that we need to embrace this world or risk being left behind. Already over half of all research projects have some form of collaboration with business or other external organisations and we think this is likely to grow. And the government’s challenges over Brexit are likely to lead to a stronger regional investment policy.
We know that this kind of work can be challenging and time consuming for academics. We have therefore established a new team – Innovation, Impact and Business – to help academics generate research impact; to connect with new partners; to help create opportunities for collaborations; and to build place-based innovation. The aim is to enable the University’s world-class research and education to make a real difference in society.
The team will focus mainly on: building partnerships for research projects (working closely with the new Research Service); supporting impact development across the University; managing major strategic relationships with business; generating income and partnership in the region; and supporting innovation for our staff and students.
We are looking forward to working with you.
Sean Fielding, Director Innovation, Impact and Business